Increase in dog theft and sentencing guidelines

rp_daisy-dawg-221x300.jpgDog theft is something none of us want to consider, but as recently reported, according to a BBC investigation, a stated 423 dog thefts have occurred within the first four months of this year, an increase of over 22% during the last two years. A total of over 5000 dogs have been reported stolen, information provided by police forces in England and Wales since the beginning of 2013.

Dog theft is on the increase partly due to the fluctuating economy and when the expectations of profiting from stealing a pet turns out to be more lucrative. Regardless of the heartbreak of the owners affected, the law considers the theft of a dog in a similar way to the theft of another possession, such as a mobile telephone, an old bicycle or a handbag.

Regrettably, the current guidelines for sentencing give such little consideration to the classification of a dog as an asset that it is almost impossible for courts to levy prison terms on offenders. It’s no surprise that there are demands for a separate law for the theft of a pet.

New Sentencing guidelines for theft

The new guidelines, issued by the Sentencing Council that came into effect from February 1st, 2016, require the Court to not only place consideration on the dog’s value, but to take into account any detrimental harm caused to the victim, be it the value of the dog to the owner and any emotional distress caused as a result of the dog theft.

For a dog valued at less than £500

The theft of such a dog, maybe a rescue or mongrel dog, would result in sentencing at a Cat 3 level, for harm but with significant additional harm.

  • 1)For a planned dog theft, sentencing would begin with a high level community order (up to 36 weeks maximum custody)
  • 2)For an opportunist dog theft, sentencing would begin as a Band C fine (up to a maximum community order at low level)

For a dog valued at more than £500

The theft of a dog of increased monetary value would result in a Cat 2 level for harm, with consideration for additional harm.

  • For a planned dog theft, sentencing would begin with custody of 1 year to a maximum of 2 years.
  • For an opportunist dog theft, sentencing would begin with a high level community order with a maximum custody sentence of up to 36 weeks.

Penalties need to be much tougher for those persons carrying out these theft crimes to act as a prevention to others.

If you don’t clean up after your dog, you can be given an on the spot fine of up to£80, with a penalty of up to £1000 if the case is taken to court. In some local authority areas, dog walkers can now be fined £100 if they exercise dogs without a poop bag, regardless of if their dog fouls or not.

If a dog is stolen, it can have a devastating, heart-breaking effect on the whole family.